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Will Villanova Basketball’s starting five include two freshmen?

Bryan Antoine and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl may be too talented to come off the bench.

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Happy Thursday Nova Nation! Yesterday Sports Illustrated continued a series that looks at the possible one-and-done candidates in the Class of 2019. #16 and #17 on their list were non other than Villanova’s Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Bryan Antoine. They along with Justin Moore, Eric Dixon, and Chris Arcidiacono make up Villanova’s freshman class, which just arrived back on campus this week:

The article posits that both freshmen will earn spots in the starting five (once Antoine fully recovers of course), with Antoine at SG and Robinson-Earl at SF. They project the returning starters from last season to round out the starting rotation with Gillespie at PG, Bey at SF, and Samuels at C.

While that lineup is certainly possible and would fit Jay Wright’s preferred style of positionless basketball, I’m skeptical if that will ever become Villanova’s regular starting lineup next season. Don’t get me wrong, I would have bet a significant amount of money on this as the starting lineup before Antoine’s injury. But even if he’s 100% ready to go to start the season, I think things play out differently.

First off, Wright puts a lot of reliance on experience. His expectations are high, as is the difficulty of picking up his offense and defense in just two months. He’ll probably simplify things a bit given the youth of this team (Villanova ranks 179th in experience per KenPom), but he’ll still want to rely on the guys that have been there before. Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels, Saddiq Bey, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree have all started at least 17 games for Villanova, and that experience will be needed this year in the starting five. I also think that Robinson-Earl’s versatility and skill will be polished enough to beat out the rest of the front court competition, earning him the final spot. That puts Gillespie at PG, Samuels at SG (as he was at the Pan-Am Games), Bey at SF, Robinson-Earl at PF, and Cosby-Roundtree at C.

As for Antoine, even at 100% he’ll have missed an entire summer’s worth of conditioning and workouts. With a deep roster, Wright can have the luxury of working him in slowly to find a rhythm on both ends of the court. I’m actually expecting Antoine’s role, at least minutes wise, to resemble Donte DiVincenzo in 2018. He wasn’t on the floor to start the games, but he finished the season 3rd on the team in minutes and was always on the court to close out games (unless it was a blowout). Antoine probably has the most potential of any player on this team, it’s just a matter of how quickly he can reach it.

Who are your starting five for the 2019-2020 season? Who’s your dark horse candidate to break into the top of the rotation? Let me know your answers in the comments below.

In other “news”, Josh Hart beats up on the Lakers (in a video game), Villanova Football is revving up for the season opener, and Women’s Soccer kicks off today at home against LSU. Enjoy!

Villanova Basketball

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